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Andrew Sutherland "Sutho" (Surrey outposts)
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Micro Scalextric 1:64 Scale Hyper Cars Race Set
Micro Scalextric 1:64 Scale Hyper Cars Race Set

4.0 out of 5 stars Scalextric for toddlers! Mostly brilliant, but a couple of gripes..., 12 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The basic principle of 'Micro Scalextric' is spot-on... it's simply a shrunk-down version of the regular slot car racing set that's been going since the 50s, complete with magnets located in the chasses of the cars, and an adjustable throttle, so they're less likely to shoot off the track (something that happens notoriously often on the big version when taking corners at speed). That's important because younger children would quickly tire of the game if the car was regularly coming off... it also slightly takes the skill element out of the equation, but most toddlers won't be complaining about that. The cars are tiny: 7cm long. They're pretty responsive and shoot around, although we did have a few annoying teething problems where squeezing the trigger seemingly wasn't doing anything; I think perhaps the cars weren't aligned perfectly... bit fiddly. The track is short (355 cm long) and has a small enough footprint to fit in even our small, cluttered living room. You get 2 cars... but my main bugbear is that the remote controls aren't cordless- they plug into the mains, meaning you must setup near a socket and, more annoyingly, that the flexes can get in the way... I guess this comes with the benefit of not shelling out extra on batteries though, so for some this maybe a plus.


Childs Farm hair & body wash in organic sweet orange 250ml
Childs Farm hair & body wash in organic sweet orange 250ml
Price: £2.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant, orange-scented shower/bath gel suitable for sensitive skin, 7 Jan. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Nice shower/bath gel, foams/lathers and washes well and has a very distinctive orange aroma, quite surprisingly strong I thought, but rather pleasantly so. Tried it on myself and my kids; we are all eczema prone and it didn’t aggravate. Slightly bemused by the ‘98% natural ingredients’ boast: how does that compare to elsewhere, and what about the other 2%? Also, only one of the ingredients is organic: the orange oil (which I guess accounts for the distinctive scent).


I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
I Just Wasn't Made For These Times
Price: £11.79

1.0 out of 5 stars Be warned: this is a CD-R; not a proper CD, 29 Dec. 2014
Great album but this is not an authentic, regular CD. It is in fact nothing more than a CD-R (i.e. recordable media) manufactured on-demand by Amazon (in Germany). This is clearly printed on the rear of the CD but is not stated on the item page on Amazon.co.uk, which is highly misleading.


Verbatim 52619 LED Classic A B22 6 Watt Light Bulb
Verbatim 52619 LED Classic A B22 6 Watt Light Bulb
Price: £7.70

4.0 out of 5 stars Old school-shaped, c.40-60w-equiv. energy saving bulb, 24 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Bayonet cap lightbulb that purports to emit 40w equivalent light but in my view exceeds that a little. It's currently lighting up my living room just fine, hanging on a basic pendant. The light itself has a slight yellowish hue rather than being totally 'pure'. Unlike some energy saving bulbs, this one fires up instantly and doesn't have the twisty/tubular shape; it's shaped just like a classic, old-school bulb, which personally I prefer the look of. Not sure if that justifies the price-tag, mind. Couldn't possibly comment on longevity as I've only been using it for a couple of weeks. One point of notice: it's not dimmable.


Mimic Me Voice Recording Unit
Mimic Me Voice Recording Unit
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Low tech recording device to aid bird mimicry, 24 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Subject line says it all really: extremely low tech device about which there's precious little to report since it does nothing other than record 10 seconds' worth of audio (i.e. your voice) which it will then playback on a loop, either for a couple of hours or else ad infinitum (these being the only two settings). There's no volume control and no option to store multiple recordings. Playback quality is surprisingly good and the device itself is very small, although being garish bright green, not exactly discreet.


Paul Lamond The Story Telling Game
Paul Lamond The Story Telling Game
Price: £10.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Simple but effective multi-player game, 24 Dec. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Most half-decent multi-player games have a simple premise and this one's no different: the game comprises nothing but a selection of cards, each with various words and visual cues. The aim, as the title suggests, is to tell a story, using an opening sentence that features words on the card you've been dealt, against the clock (an electronic timer/buzzer is included); the following players each expand on the same story, one sentence at a time, using words from their own cards, until the time's up, at which point whoever's talking must collect all the cards that were played that round. First person to play all their cards wins. Technically playable with 2 players but really and truly only any good with 3 or 4 plus. Kind of the storytelling version of Pictionary or Taboo, although there's no teamwork element to this one. To be honest, the premise is so simple that you could easily enough make your own version with little more than Post-its and a stopwatch.... but for £6.50 you can't grumble.


El Nino [DVD]
El Nino [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jesús Castro
Price: £17.25

3.0 out of 5 stars Tense and gripping Spanish drug-trafficking-thriller, 24 Dec. 2014
This review is from: El Nino [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There's shades of Michael Man/Paul Greengrass to some of action scenes in this thriller, which, through a little over-long and lacking real directorial distinctiveness, nevertheless packs plenty of whollop . We follow two main characters: veteran cop Jesús - desperately trying to bring down a drug smuggling kingpin working out of Gibraltar - and the titular El Niño, a young local boy who works fixing motorboats and dreams of bigger things. Predictably enough, he falls into working as a drugs mule and ends up running his own small-scale smuggling operation to make some fast money, getting in way over his head with the real hardened criminals and in so doing being brought to the attentions of Jesús. Save for a rather soupy lovey dovey subplot and some ropey dialogue, the film works really well: the drugs set pieces get nicely tense and the action scenes, for which the director employs a refreshingly economical style, are excellent: jet skis/speedboat/car/helicopter chases and several superb helicopter sequences, are all intelligently shot and served up sans CGI, hence the Mann/Greengrass comparison.


Soil
Soil
by Jamie Kornegay
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

2.0 out of 5 stars Overwritten dark comedy, 24 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Soil (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Not into this. Korenegay's prose feels very mannered and self-conscious to me... he can certainly write, but it all feels laboured and stilted and 'worked at' rather than natural. Reading it felt like a chore. The publisher's tagline “The Coen Brothers meet Crime and Punishment - with a Mississippi twist” is pure hubris and way off beam, except to connote the vaguely Southern noir stylings.


Southern Cross the Dog
Southern Cross the Dog
by Bill Cheng
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Deep, Deep South, 23 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Southern Cross the Dog (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was a little taken aback to learn that Bill Cheng, the Chinese-American author here, has never even been to Mississippi, the setting of his debut novel, which I guess is hazily reminiscent of Faulkner. It's the meandering story of Robert Lee Chatham, a young black boy on a rambling journey across state, following the destruction of his home in the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The plot wanders all over the place, as we follow Chatham's many, surreal misadventures, but Cheung's prose - to my mind at least very plausibly Mississippian, despite being the product of nothing more than an imagination, fuelled by a love of Delta blues music -keeps it together nicely, amounting to a distinctive sort-of travelogue, replete with scores of Southern Gothic tropes: all Jim Crow savagery, racist white townsfolk, devilish bluesmen, prostitutes with hearts-of-gold, murderous Cajun fur trappers and the like. This is unreal, weird stuff; plot centred on the tribulations resulting from the travelling lifestyle -a hallmark of the music which inspired the book- and prose shot through with musicality, rhyme and rhythm. Enjoyably different.


Fourth of July Creek
Fourth of July Creek
by Smith Henderson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Shades of Cormac McCarthy, 23 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Fourth of July Creek (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Clear shades of Cormac McCarthy to this, Smith Henderson's debut novel, which, though not without flaws, is basically pretty excellent. The story is set in rural Montana in 1980: Pete Snow, our not-entirely-likeable protagonist, is plodding along rock bottom: a thankless social worker dealing with terrible family situations, recently split from his wife -who has custody of their daughter- with a criminal brother, a dying father, a troubled girlfriend and a major drink problem. Snow encounters and attempts to give support to a young boy and his paranoid, reclusive conspiracy theorist father, Jeremiah Pearl: Snow's investigations into Pearl form the meat of what follows, juxtaposed with the tale of his own failings as a father- his daughter's story becoming the more interesting tale of the two. It's tragedy, beautifully rendered- Henderson can really, really write, and his depictions of Snow, the screw-up, weigh heavy with a sense of foreboding that runs deep.


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